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To smoke or not to smoke, that is the question

April 21, 2011 - Steve Murch
When medical marijuana was on the ballot in 2008, I voted for the proposal. Initially, I wasn't going to vote for it but was convinced by a few stories told to me, either by the person who was helped or second-hand, that it was a good thing. Though to be honest, in all cases the marijuana these people used clearly wasn't medical.

My apprehension in all of this was, and still is, that those with no reason to have it would seek it. I didn't suspect it would be widespread, but there was part of me that knew there would be abuse. I'm no prude — I inhaled a time or two in my younger days — but most of the arguments for legalizing all marijuana just don't hold up.

I'm skeptical of most of the people who push way harder than seems necessary when trying to get communities to either be accepting or not push through laws to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries. What compounds the problem is that these people who are pushing, and the dispensaries that are up and running, all use doper slang. If you want to be looked at legitimately then speak like an upstanding citizen (which most actually are), not like some dope fiend out of “Reefer Madness.”

I heard a radio advertisement on Wednesday that said the place was “420 friendly with yummy treats.” The implication being, of course, that pot smokers get the munchies. Now, if you want people to view medical marijuana differently than a little Maui Wowie or Acapulco Gold, then quit using the terminology and slang associated with the illegal marijuana.

A story in the Detroit Free Press today, using Michigan Department of Community Health data, states that a majority of about 64,000 people in Michigan who are authorized to use medical marijuana have unspecified ailments that cause severe and chronic pain, muscle spasms and nausea. One of the biggest arguments used when the proposal was on the ballot was medical marijuana's use for cancer patients. The Free Press story says that 1,400 certifications for cancer and about 1,100 for hepatitis C. So about 61,500 are for pain – unspecified pain.

Pain is a tricky thing and I don't want to minimize people's suffering, but “pain” can be interpreted many ways and is ambiguous enough that some scam artists are likely among the pained recipients. This is the one area that needs extra scrutiny, with questions like “how did you hurt your back” and others like it at the top of the list. There has to be more than someone has a pain they can't tolerate, so a doctor (who should be accountable) needs to say patient A has a herniated disk that makes simple tasks like sitting at the dinner table are intolerable. Also, while defining pain, and the actual level of it, is hard to define since everyone has a different threshold and coping mechanism, there has to be some pretty high standards to use as a guideline for how much pain is enough to receive marijuana assistance.

The law is young, and has been shrouded in controversy since it became law. Communities in Northeast Michigan are wrestling with if and how licensed dispensaries should exist in our area. California has had a compassionate care law since 2003 and is still dealing with issues surrounding it. This is not as easy as supporters may believe.

I still think ultimately that it may prove to be the right thing to do, but those who seek medical marijuana or know someone who does need to relax and give it time. If California has had it six years longer (Michigan's law didn't go into effect until 2009) and still dealing with problems, including closing them down, then Michigan's two years definitely needs time.

The need may be real, I just get suspicious of those who push too hard and too fast.


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